Ian Sattler on the Final Crisis: Aftermath Titles

Run!

Word broke this weekend at New York Comic Con that DC will be launching four new Final Crisis: Aftermath titles in May: Run!, Dance, Ink and Escape. While the books will be rooted in the recently concluded Final Crisis miniseries, they promise to take their respective Final Crisis ingredients (characters, settings, and situations) and push them in new directions.

We spoke with DC’s Senior Story Editor Ian Sattler on video about the four projects, and during the Comic Con, we spoke with him again for some more details.

Newsarama: Ian, let’s start ground up on these four series – to fully clarify, these are all miniseries, right?

Ian Sattler: Right – these are four, six-issue miniseries starting in May, and Run! will be the first one out. I’m not sure of the exact order, but Escape, Ink and Dance will follow.

NRAMA: What was the rationale for doing these four specific projects? You could look at Final Crisis in the light that there were dozens of directions that you could go off in with spin-offs or continuations, or you could just wrap it with issue #7 of Final Crisis and go on without much reference to it… Why these directions?

IS: You’re right - Final Crisis had so many different, crazy ideas in it that I could have done a whole line of books based on the stuff that Grant’s mind was coming up with. Final Crisis started off very dense in literally in the gutters and alleys, and as it went on, time started becoming fractured, universes were shearing apart from one another, things got louder and more separated. Now that the universe has resettled, we were looking at the characters from the story. The Human Flame and the Tattooed Man really stood out, and the question of what the Super Young Team is doing now that things have calmed down was raised, as was the idea of the Global Peace Agency. This is just the road we ended up on.

NRAMA: Let’s start going book by book then, and let’s begin with Run!. Matt Sturges is writing that, with Freddie Williams on art…

IS: Right – and Freddie is just doing great stuff. He did such a great job on Robin for us. He’s a dude who’s fast at his job, and as a result, he kind of gets “punished” for that [laughs] and we ask him to be fast on his regular assignments. But with Run!, he’s got a little more room and time to work, and the byproduct of that is just amazing. And Matt is one of the best guys that you’re going to be seeing more and more of this year, and Run! is a cool book for him to stretch some muscles on.

NRAMA: So what was the scope of the story that was given to Matt when he signed on for the job?

IS: The scope was…or rather the idea of Run! was a simple question – “How fast can we make this book?” The thing about these books is that they’re all very, very character driven, and they all have certain stylistic themes, with Run!’s being how kinetic we can make a comic? Matt had mentioned to me that he had always wanted to do a big chase and capture book with the criminal and police that takes place across different locales, and with this book, we’re really trying to see how fast we can keep the book feeling. Scenes don’t last more than a few pages as the Human Flame is moving around the country at a pretty quick clip. As we were doing this book, the test that we came up for it was us asking ourselves, “Is this Run? Is this fast enough?” And the other question we asked ourselves was how far can we push it without going into areas of poor taste. That’s not saying that we’re being shocking just to be shocking or that these are mature readers books, but we’re looking at telling different stories. I’m a huge fan of shows like The Wire and The Shield - things that are more aggressive and grittier without going into total grindhouse. It’s easy to go to that end of the spectrum, but to do it without pushing it all the way to that end is actually a lot harder, but that was the edict on all of these books, and we’ve got it in spades in Run!.

NRAMA: What gets the “run” of Run! going, then?

IS: Like we were talking about, the story centers on the Human Flame, and it’s kind of funny – when I first got to the DC offices, he was already being developed for and used in Final Crisis,but I could never remember his name, so I ended up calling him “Fire Weasel,” which is all I could remember for him, and that actually carries over to the book…

NRAMA: That’s a pretty unfortunate nickname…

IS: Yeah – not only that, but given his status in the DCU, no one can remember his name there either. But this is a guy who feels entitled, who feels that the world owes him one, that his luck’s gotta change. And he’s a dumb guy – he’s not smart, and he’s mean. He doesn’t make good decisions. So we find him at the start of the series waking up form a coma after the Justifier helmet fell off, and here he is – the guy who introduced Libra to a lot of the villains in Final Crisis, and the guy who used his cellphone to videotape the Martian Manhunter getting killed. So the heroes want him – and you’ll see the Justice League chasing him in this book – although it takes them a little while to catch up, but you’ll also see that the villains hate this guy.

So when he wakes up, he realizes that he has nowhere to go, and realizes that all he can do is just run. SO where that takes him, and what he finds along the way – this is really a story about the Human Flame and these other DC villains for whom the natural evolutionary process has passed them by. These guys – and we made up some others to go with him like the Human Swiss Army Knife and a guy named Phoney Baloney – mort villains – every decision that’s made there is a better one that could have been made instead. The Human Flame has outs, he could have gone quietly, but he keeps trying to take the opportunity to get rich quick. Instead of being punished for it – he gets more power, but at a terrible cost.

NRAMA: Alright – moving over to Dance

IS: I do have to say that I love the title, and once you see it, it makes a lot of sense, given that the Super Young Team is put out on display and have to kind of “dance” for their jobs and their message. And there will be actual dancing in the books.

For Dance, we have the wonderfully talented Joe Casey writing that one, and I know he has a very good understanding of Grant’s approach and mentality on characters. Eddie Berganza and I are co-editing this book together, and to get Joe on, it took one phone call and we were off to the races.

The story is about these kids who are trying to figure out what it means to be heroes. They were out on this great adventure in Final Crisis, and now that they’re back, there’s kind of an understanding that they were part of something, but there’s still this lack of understanding about what to do with themselves – they got close and are starting to “get” it – starting to understand that maybe they shouldn’t just stand by and watch this, but rather, be a part of it. There was that great line in Final Crisis that none of them have ever been in a real fight. Well, they’re going to get into a real fight. And also, they’re going to have to figure out what to do when one of them tries to leave the group, or when they realize when there are people pulling their strings.

There’s some really interesting commentary in this about how the media likes to distract us from relaly bad stuff with variety shows and filler. And there’s a surprise villain as well. It’s all set in Japan, and they even go to conventions – and I can’t even begin to describe just how horrible that goes as they meet their fans who are dressed up as them. It’s a twisted book, but it’s fun and it’s got everything that people liked about Super Young Team is there.

NRAMA: It sounds like something of a post-American Idol Teen Titans in a way...

IS: Exactly. That’s a good way of putting it – it’s also more or less post-American, Japanese Teen Titans too. I don’t like a heavy dose of realism in my comics – as a fan, as a reader, I don’t like it when comics gets really heavily reflective of current events, so here the metaphor is that this is very…the references are there, and people can probably draw lines, but they’re also very easy to ignore, too. But yeah – the media, and what we’ve come to accept as heroism is a really big part of Dance.

NRAMA: You mentioned that there will be a surprise villain in Dance - are you talking about someone from the DCU?

IS: Oh yeah – definitely. It’s crazy stuff.

NRAMA: Moving on to Ink - the Tattooed Man did become a fairly major player in the Final Crisis story, and had more development than he’s probably ever had, to the point where he had to be pulled in and shown that the others did respect him, and they were seeing him through totally new eyes, in a way…

IS: Right. This book is about addiction in a way, and things that addicts do. What happens when you’re trying to stay “clean” from your past addictions? You cut some corners, but the closer you cut things, the closer you get to picking your addiction back up. He was reluctant to help the heroes, because it’s not his natural state of mind – but he gets swept up in this wild ride, and gets made an honorary member of the Justice League, so there’s a certain amount of positive feeling that comes from that.

He gets back to his neighborhood, and the rumors have gotten around about him, ranging from that he played some part in this superhero battle to the rumor that he single-handedly saved Superman, so he’s got a lot of respect now that he didn’t have before. So he sets out to be this hero for this town that’s having a terrible problem with people who have lost their jobs and houses, and a very corrupt police department. We get some rioting, we get a murder, we have his family. And he’s the guy who, if he knocks out a villain committing a crime, and the villain has a roll of twenties…well, it’s pretty easy to pick that up. Should he? Does he? He finds out that being a hero is hard – he stops one mugging, and people want to know why he didn’t stop the stabbing on the other side of the city.

As he’s trying to deal with all of that, he goes to bed one night, wakes up the next morning, and to his horror, finds that his tattoos aren’t the same as they were he night before – and worse, two of them have come off his body and are talking to him and trying to convince him to do bad things. And then things go really, really bad.

And we get a very cool character out of it at the end.

I think Ink is going to be right up the alley of people who are looking for a serious, character driven book about people in tough situations trying to do the right thing.

NRAMA: And finally - Escape

IS: Dan’s editing Escape, and the big idea with that is that it’s part Prisoner and part Saw, so it’s got a lot of that eeriness about unknown captivity. What we get it Nemesis awakening in a place that’s part a horrible prison, and part a lot of other things that are oddly changing on their own, it seems. He’s in there with some other characters from the DCU that you’ve seen in Checkmate and some other places, that are also awakening in the equivalent of The Village. They’re trying to figure out why they’re there, and as it turns out, the Global Peace Agency is being proactive. Checkmate is in disarray, all the other agencies that were set up to deal with the superhumans are compromised or in as much turmoil as Checkmate. What do these people know, and what is the GPA up against? So it becomes a battle for information - and trying to escape is murder.

The great cover that we have with Nemesis with a burlap sack over his head and chains on his arms – he’s got to use his wits to get out.

I’ve given my water cooler promise for every issue of every series that we have – there’s at least one, “I can’t believe they did that!” moment – which is a lot of moments. But for this…I never, ever want to see another Time Pool after something we’re doing in Escape. Something really, really terrible happens with a Time Pool in there.

But what’s great about all four books is that we’re in a position to do these titles where, instead of them being an afterthought, the goal was to do them with a clear endpoint, and something new at that end – a new character, a new situation, a new group or other things that w have plans for in the DCU. We’re moving at a real fast rate right now through 2009 and into 2010, and these will all be things that are in play.

So this is a Final Crisis aftermath that’s as thematic as it is using the characters and situations from the story. It deals with the feeling that people were left with after losing that big of a battle against something that you can’t grab or punch. And now, going into Blackest Night, there’s a bit of an uneasiness around the DCU – Batman’s gone, there’s a planet of Kryptonians around, and the dead are going to rise. That’s not an easygoing time.

But that’s not to say that these series are in any way continuations of Final Crisis. You don’t need to have read a page of Final Crisis, and you can pick up any of these books and understand what’s going on completely. All the “Aftermath” branding means is that readers can expect a level of intensity and care shown to characters and big ideas. They’re not connected, and you can read all of them, one, two, or three of them. We’re going to surprise people with the content in a good way. They’re going to be really, really fun rides.

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